May 10, 2012
The Tenth of The Ten
The Hebrew Bible gives two lists of the ten commandments, one in Exodus and the second in Deuteronomy. Many of the faiths that stem from Judaism follow the guidelines given by these fundamental sets of rules, also known as the Decalogue. Despite the common origination, the Ten Commandments have been changed or molded to represent the core principles specific to religions such as Christianity. The common operation for each faith is to have a set list for the Ten Commandments. Unlike other faiths, Judaism maintains the original order for the Ten Commandments, but uses both locations in the Bible to allow a broader interpretation for each commandment. According to the Jewish tradition, the Tenth Commandment is the commandment with the most leeway for interpretation. Although Jewish and Christian interpretations of the law differ, the Tenth Commandment serves as a guide and check on desires, thought, and actions.
The first half of the Ten are commands that deal with the relationship between man and God, and the second half set the limitations for relationships between man and man. The first step to understanding the Tenth Command is to recognize the differences in forbidden actions detailed in Exodus and Deuteronomy. In Exodus the commandment forbids the action of coveting, whereas in Deuteronomy the commandment specifies that a person shall not “desire” (Kuntz 4-5). Rambam describes the difference in wording as steps that lead to doing wrong against a fellow man. Any man may desire, but the transgression occurs as soon as “he begins to meditate on how he can achieve his goal” (Feuer 60). Rambam's interpretation allows for a man to desire anything another man has, but the man cannot act on that desire nor can he take actions to steal from someone else. Contemporary society thrives on this interpretation. After seeing someone else with a desirable object, modern-day man has the option to go purchase the same type of object.
Additionally, the Talmud explains that coveting is a step taken beyond desire; coveting is when a man acts upon the desire to take from someone else. Rambam adds that if a man wants something so badly that he influences the other person to sell an item that was not otherwise for sale, the man has violated the command forbidding him to covet (Feuer 60). When a person uses any type of influence or prestige to force someone into selling an item, then he is breaking the commandment. The commandment's parameters do not restrict all thought, but provides guidelines that determine when desirous thought crosses a boundary into covetous thought and action. Taking action on such thought clearly violates the commandment.
Furthermore, if yearning after another man's lot in life is breaking the Tenth Commandment. HaKemach draws a connection between the Tenth Commandment to the First Commandment. HaKemach concludes that a man that accepts God, must never doubt His will (Feuer 61). God provides man with a specific lot in life and places man on the path to fulfill that destiny. If a man is jealous of someone else's lot in life, then that person is inherently disagreeing with the existence of an all-powerful God who provided the person with a particular fortune and fate in life. Thus, the breaking of the Tenth Commandment is the automatic breaking of the First Commandment.
The second important difference between the Tenth Commandment in Exodus and in Deuteronomy is the arrangement of things that may be yearned for in order of importance. The command in Exodus lists the following: home, wife, servants, animals, and things (Kuntz 4). Deuteronomy provides the following: wife, house, field, servants, animals, and things (Kuntz 5). Ibn Ezra provides an explanation for the order of items in Exodus via a logical saying, “an intelligent person will first acquire a house, then marry a wife” (Feuer 61). After traveling in the desert, the highest necessity...
Cited: Kuntz, Paul. The Ten Commandments in History. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004. 4-5 34 60-61.
Feuer, Avrohom. Aseres Hadibros. 2nd. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, Ltd., 2010
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